GREENWOOD VILLAGE | The Cherry Creek School District will break ground this summer on two school-based health centers at Overland High School and Horizon Community Middle School.
The district hopes this will help bridge the gap for students and their families who do not have reliable access to healthcare, preventing learning loss for students and helping parents save time and money.
The centers — both in Aurora — are set to open in January of 2022, and will be run in partnership with STRIDE Community Health Center, a nonprofit organization that provides health care to underserved populations around the Denver metro area.
Michelle Weinraub, the district’s health services director, said during a Cherry Creek school board presentation Monday that the centers will provide primary care, dental care, vision care, mental health treatment and nutrition education. She stressed the importance of offering more than just medical care.
When she was a school nurse, “some of the most frustrating and sad times I had with students was trying to hook them into dental care emergently,” Weinraub said.
Having on-site medical treatment that children can go to before, during or after the school day will prevent students from having to miss large chunks of class time to go to a doctor’s office, Weinraub said. It also means that parents don’t have to miss work to take their kid to an appointment and pay for treatment with money that they might not be able to afford to spend.
The construction costs will be paid by the district, and the operational costs of the clinic will be paid by STRIDE. The clinics will bill patients’ insurance or Medicaid, but families who are not insured will be treated at no cost, she said.
The facilities cost $4 million to develop, and will be paid for with money from the 2020 bond election, according to district spokesperson Abbe Smith.
Because of the disparities in access to quality healthcare between white families and families of color, Weinraub said that the centers will be a significant step in Cherry Creek’s goals to create a more equitable learning environment.
Students who are struggling with physical or mental health problems or who are in acute pain have a hard time focusing on their education, she said.
“We know that children who are well can learn better, and children who are not well are not available to learn,” she said.
Overland High School was chosen for one of the sites because it shares a campus with Prairie Middle School and is located near a number of other schools. Horizon was selected because there is a dearth of other healthcare options near the school.
The district hopes to build more clinics in the future after these two.
Cherry Creek will set up immunization clinics over the summer to introduce STRIDE to families and let them know about the clinics, Weinraub said.
The clinics will not replace school nurses, who are stationed in every building.